17 June 2023

Bach to the Future

Three Beers for Bach!*


If I said this was all about Bach – I would be lying.  And if I said this was all about beer – I would also be lying.  And, in this day and age, who would want to be a liar?  I just cannot imagine why anyone would want to tell untruths.  Little, white, lies – maybe.  But wholly untruthful statements?  There just is no place for such in public life......


Anyway, I won’t lie to you.  I have just got back from Germany, and one of the reasons that I made this perilous journey, tunnelling 75 metres under La Manche (or, to give it is proper title, The European Channel) at nearly 300 kilometres per hour, was to celebrate the tercentenary of Johann Sebastian Bach’s move to Leipzig, a small town in (East) Germany.


I will also let you into a small truth.  I like beer.  (And wine, I might add, and other drinks, and food – but they are, perhaps, other stories.....)


And, in some ways, Beer and Bach go well together. For example, though precious little is known about Bach’s personal life (apart, perhaps, from the lives and deaths of his twenty children) it is recorded that when he moved to Weimar, in July 1708, he was to receive 150 florins in cash, eighteen bushels of grain (presumably for bread), twelve bushels of barley (presumably for beer), four cords of wood (to cook and make beer with as well as to keep warm) and thirty pails of beer (to be going on with.....). 

[Incidentally, to put this into some kind of historical perspective, this was the same year that the Jesuits were expelled from Holland and Charles XII invaded Ukraine....]


But I digress.  I have in my hand a piece of paper, a letter from Emily Potzger (Incoming) who represents the Leipzig Tourismus and Marketing GmbH.  Dear Mr Gibbs, she writes, It is a pleasure to welcome you to Leipzig – the city about which Gotthold Ephraim Lessing said: “I come to Leipzig, to a place where one can see the whole world in miniature.”  

[I should probably explain that Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, (born Jan. 22, 1729, Kamenz, Upper Lusatia, Saxony [Germany]—died Feb. 15, 1781, Braunschweig, Brunswick [Germany]), was a German dramatist, critic, and writer on philosophy and aesthetics.  Which, I guess, explains a lot.....]


Dear Mr Gibbs, she concludes, we wish you wonderful and eventful days in Leipzig.....


Who could resist such openness and charm?  


But (and, as you would expect, there is often a but) this was the focus of my visit, something that I had wished for for many years (probably since visiting Eisenach, Bach’s birthplace, and Weimar some years ago) but which had been rendered impractical by the pandemic (among other minor inconveniences.....). So it wasn’t just to Lovely Leipzig that I lurched.  No. First I yearned to have a look at Lorsch.


Aha!  (You cry.) Und was ist das? Well, I am surprised you are not better informed, as the World Heritage Site Lorsch Abbey is property of the Verwaltung der Staatlichen Schlösser un Gärten Hessen.  Founded in 764, built on an ice-age sand dune, and consecrated in 774 in the presence of King Charlemagne, this is a site worth a detour (though, as the trains from Bensheim weren’t running, a charabanc was needed for the second leg, even though the bus driver, a person not exactly born in Germany, did not speak German – nor English.... Ho hum.) And the Karolingerstadt (Carolingian Town – keep up) is pretty cute too, with its ancient, half-timbered houses and historic town hall, not to mention its Museum of Tobacco Production and the Culture of Smoking (tobacco used to be the main crop here).  It’s a far cry from North Norfolk, and a beer and a sausage salad in the market square rounded off a fine day out in the sun.


I was staying in Darmstadt, which can be explained by my unredacted WhatsApp messages, should this be necessary. Darmstadt holds the official title City of Science (German: Wissenschaftsstadt) which is about as meaningful as City of Culture.....  {Darmstadtium is a chemical element with the symbol Ds and atomic number 110. It is an extremely radioactive synthetic element. The most stable known isotope, darmstadtium-281, has a half-life of approximately 12.7 seconds. Darmstadtium was first created in 1994 by the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research in the city of Darmstadt, Germany, after which it was named.}  

You get my drift?  


Anyway, Darmstadt is also blessed with the Waldspirale (Forest Spiral) built in the late 1990s, a residential complex by Austrian Friedensreich Hundertwasser. As an almost surreal building, bearing a resemblance to the work of Antoni Gaudí, it is internationally famous for its almost absolute rejection of rectangular forms, down to every window having a different shape. (It also absolutely rejects the possibility of photographing it, but more of Hundertwasser later.....). 

So this is a photograph of something else.....


Not content with such fame, Darmstadt also hosts the UNESCO World Heritage Site Mathildenhöhe, with the Hochzeitsturm (Wedding tower) by Joseph Maria Olbrich, and a Russian Chapel built by Jugendstil architects who had settled in Darmstadt (German Art Nouveau is commonly known by its German name, Jugendstil. The name is taken from the artistic journal, Die Jugend, which was published in Munich and which espoused the new artistic movement.)


All this culture aside, the centre of Darmstadt, the Marktplatz, is home to the Darmstädter Ratskeller Hausbrauerei, a craft brewery located in the Old City Hall, which was built in 1598.  Here 0.4 litres of Ratsbräu Premium hell (nach Pilsner Art) will cost you €4,10, and to clothe such excess you could have a pair of fried sausages with bread for €8.90.....




And so to Fulda.


Which a man who says he has ridden from the German Sea (AKA The North Sea) on a Vespa claims is the Bees Knees – a phrase I think may be missing an R and a D?


But I will spare you the continuation, for the moment.  

Ernulf is Ernulf, and should you wish to follow my trail of confusion, then the next episode will thrill you with its mix of Baroque and Roll, and we shall approach the Bachanalian excitement of Leaping Leipzig...... 


In case you were wondering, this article is approximately 1,000 words, which is pretty much the same as what Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson will spew out on a weekly basis for the Maily Dail for a piffling £1m p.a.

Chicken Feed! 



Prost und alles Gute

Bis zum nächsten Mal

1 comment:

  1. Isn’t Germany fabulous! both music and beer!